Monday, July 7, 2008

TOP TEN: Fun Family Activities for Summer in Montreal

As promised, here are top ten nine suggestions for fun activities that families can enjoy during a Montreal summer. Recommended by John Symon and Annika Melanson, this diverse group of activities is sure to captivate families and promises to provide an enthralling summer experience!

  1. The annual Just for Laughs festival (July 10 to 20) will be hosting children’s activities at the Just for Kids space, located next to the UQAM church bell tower on St. Denis St. (between St. Catherine St. E. and de Maisonneuve Blvd.). Non-stop entertainment will be available for children, including puppet shows, clown workshops and treasure hunts. These activities will be offered from Monday to Friday, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and weekends from 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. For more information, call 514.845.2322 or visit the Just for Laughs web-site.

  2. La Fête des enfants (August 15-17) celebrates its 10th annual edition in 2008. This event is designed for the 12 years and under crowd. The venue will be Parc Jean Drapeau and many of the activities will take place at the Biodome, the Stewart Museum and at the Aquatic Complex of Ile Ste Helene. Fireworks, workshops, performers, inflatable toys, miniature trains, and emergency vehicles will all be there. Also to celebrate the event, there will be free admission to the Botanical Gardens, Biodôme and Insectarium on Saturday August 16 and Sunday August 17. The site is easily accessible by public transit (Jean Drapeau metro) and by bicycle from Montreal. For more information, call 514 872-0060 or email

  3. Going down the Lachine Rapids has long been described as “the best tourist attraction around Montreal.” Not only do participants get a thrilling ride through the waves (plan to get wet, even under raincoats) but they also get a brand new perspective on the city including unusual and breathtaking skylines. Two companies presently offer such trips, these being Sauté moutons, which leaves in jet boats from the Clock Tower Pier in Montreal’s Old Port, and Descentes sur le Saint-Laurent which primarily uses rafts to go down the rapids from its put in on LaSalle. Blvd. Reservations are required for both.

  4. Tree top obstacle courses are becoming increasingly popular around Montreal. Minimum ages vary, but participants must usually be able to lift their arms up at least six feet (1.8 metres). Youths under 16 years must generally be accompanied by an adult. A certain degree of coordination and athletic ability are required for these tree-top obstacle courses. My 10 and 12 year-old had a blast doing the Drummondville course in 2007. The various companies involved include: Acrobranche; Arbre en Arbre; Arbraska; and Arbre Aventure. Reservations are required and these sites are difficult to access without a car.

  5. The two big zoos near Montreal, Granby Zoo and Parc Safari both offer good summer fun. Here you can view exotic animals, including many from Africa. Granby is a more rational style zoo whereas Parc Safari lets you drive your car through the animals’ habitat where my kids enjoy feeding the animals. Parc Safari sometimes even offers the chance to ride the elephants. Afterwards, you can jump in the aquatic park at either site. The water parks are typically shut down in the event of thunderstorms, however. Car access is essential for both sites.

  6. The Biodome is a good rainy day destination. This large indoor zoo features bioclimatic zones from the Amazon rainforest, the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the world’s Polar Regions. Nearby are the Botanical Gardens, which incorporates the Insectarium—a bug museum almost unique in the world. While the Botanical Garden is popular with all ages, some programming is also offered for younger children (generally in French only). The stadium used for the 1976 Olympics is also adjacent. Access is by car (pay parking), by public transit (Viau metro) or by bike.

  7. The Quays of the Old Port remain one of the most popular tourist destinations for all ages in the Montreal area. (Montreal Science Centre, Pointe a Calliere Museum, quadricycle rental, Shed 16 Labyrinth, step aboard a three-masted barque from the last 19th century, look at the ships, or just go for an ice cream... This site is best accessed by public transit (Champs de Mars metro) or by bicycle.

  8. Mount Royal Park covers the mountain that gave Montreal its name. This popular park has long been a favourite destination of Montrealers and today features a large playground, woodland trails, paddle boating, nature watching and views of the downtown. Bring a picnic or eat in the restaurants there. Access is by car (pay parking) or by public transit (bus 11 from Mont Royal metro) or by bike.

  9. Jean Drapeau Park is situated on two islands in the St. Lawrence River. Here you can find la Ronde (a major amusement park with roller coasters), a swimming beach on Ile Notre Dame, the Stewart Museum (a 19th century fort built to protect Montreal from an American invasion), the Biodome (a museum dedicated to water and housed in the former American pavilion from Expo ‘67), beautiful gardens, swimming pools, playgrounds, boat rentals and more. Despite its close proximity to downtown, parts of the park remain remarkably quiet, making this a great spot for a picnic. The park is easily accessible by public transit (Jean Drapeau metro) and by bicycle from Montreal.

  10. La Petite Ferme at Angrignon Park (514-280-3744) is a perennial favourite for families with young children. Kids will be thrilled to get up close to chickens, cows, donkeys, ducks and sheep. The farm also has emus, llamas, peacocks, pheasants, and pigeons. There are coin-operated machines let you feed the goats and sheep. Animators are on hand to present different farm themes, mainly in French, to young children every week. This destination also features a great playground. The site is located within easy walking distance of the Angrignon metro station, pay parking is also available. A bike path along the aqueduct is nearby. Unfortunately, Le Petite Ferme is "fermé " (closed!) until 2010. But there's enough delicious attractions in this list to keep families busy for the summer!

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